I had a few more erins to run, before getting back to my desk at about 12:45pm. Little did I know, that 6 minutes later, at 12:51pm, our beloved city would change forever.
When that time came, my two story building shook like never before. This was not one of the many aftershocks still around from the September 4th quake. This was something new, and very serious.
We dropped under desks, then ran out of the building, everyone safely made it. Sadly, many others in parts of the CBD didn’t.
My partner was in Lyttleton, the port town over the hill from Christchurch. It was also the epicentre of the quake. I know she was there, and had no contact from her till 7pm. I was concerned. She experienced bricks raining down, while a client pulled her into a stand-up steel safe. That was a lucky escape!
Dust filled the air after the quake, and liquefaction oozed up through suddenly visible cracks in the pavement, as water mains and sewer pipes broke below us. The grey sludge was a constant flow and was potentially contaminated with sewage.
Standing outside our building, which still stood, was airy. We were not allowed back in, and most of us had personal belongings in there. I headed home, and walked through one of the main streets on the eastern edge of the city. Walking past blocks of shops that were now piles of bricks. The old 2 storey house that was being rebuild, down like a pile of match sticks. Three cars crushed by the debris.
Streets near home were flooded with grey sludge, as I waded through to get home.
Our place was without power, water and other services for 4 days. We managed the best we could, and coped well.
People in Christchurch have been amazing. The CBD has Search and Rescue experts from countries around the world such as Japan, Israel, UK, Australia, USA, Taiwan, Singapore to name a few. The coordination has ben the best overseas experts have seen ever. We have over 300 police from Australia, many of the armed forces involved, as well as experts and help from all over New Zealand.
Liquefaction has been even more of a problem than the last quake. We have seen a lot more of it. We spent two days clearing it from our street and another property. This toxic sludge is very fine, and as it’s mixed with sewage, needs to be cleared quickly. If left, it hardens like concrete.
Likewise, the fine dust created when it dries is a real health hazard. We will be purchasing masks tomorrow to ensure there are no long term health effects.
As day 5 of the earthquake draws to a close, the international teams of Search and Rescue or USAR as they are referred to (Urban Search & Rescue) continue to do their job. Over 1000 students (The Student Army) have been out and about with shovels helping people clear silt, more than 1800 diggers clearing roads and streets, and local folk helping each other, continue. And will so, for many weeks and months to come.
Much grieving has taken place, and more still to come. We all know people that we are still trying to make contact with. We can only hope for a positive outcome.
Christchurch city is going to take some time to recover and rebuild. It’s always been a great city, and even though it will be a very different city, it’s our home, and we all look forward to the future.